Is stick welding like riding bicycles?

I am considering a advanced stick welding class. What I am not sure about it, if I learn something good, and then do not use it for a few
years, will I fully forget the skills that I would learn? What about those of you who learned some welding stuff but then did not use for a while, have you lost those skills completely or can relearn almost instantly?
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I never avoid a chance to learn something new. I tend to use every skill eventually.
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Ignoramus7289 wrote:

Yes, very much so. And just like riding a bicycle, you never forget how, but you do loose some stability after a long time away. You don't re-learn per-se, more like re-fine-tune your skills.
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It's JUST like riding a bicycle. BUT, how well do you learn to ride it the first time? There's learning to ride it, learning to ride it pretty good, then there's learning how to do tricks, then learning to do the half tube and the crazy things people do with bikes today.
There's lots of little things you learn over the course of time in welding, and those little things are the important things to remember. The stuff that goes past just "burning rods" and understanding what you are doing. Yes, your hand does get a little unsteady from age or disuse, but at least you know how to do it and where to start and what to look out for. It comes back quickly, some times surprisingly. But in that way, it's different from bikes because when you get older, you don't bounce so good, and screwing up on a weld isn't like screwing up on a bike. I've had quite a pause in my welding continuum, and I picked it right back up. You know how to set up, how to find the amp ranges, what the rod angles are for the position of the weld, etc, etc, etc. You never forget that.
Even if you don't take the actual welding hand eye coordination to the next level, your exposure to it will give you a lot of knowledge about things ............. like if you go to buy a used trailer, and want to look and see how it was made .......... or other weldments. You won't get sold some shoddy bill of goods like you might otherwise. And later in life, it might actually get you the supervisor position by knowing how it's supposed to be done.
Ernie's advice is spot on.
Steve
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What does the advanced class cover?
I typically stick weld a small job every few months and rarely have to grind out a bad initial bead. These are mild steel, 1/4" to 1/2" thick, with DC 7018. Other processes that I use less often require some practice runs to get back to the level I once reached in class. I try to avoid designs which would exceed that level, in my case most out-of-position welds, or make a test piece and break it.
This means a whole lot of lifting and repositioning on a large welded tubing structure, then loading every joint to several times the design service load when it's done.
If I did an exercise once, like filling in a 3/4" hole in auto sheetmetal with MIG, it will all come back many years later although maybe not on the first attempt. I might run through those exercises on scrap the next time I use that process.
I say take the class. You will learn what you can or can't reliably do with a little practice and be able to plan future jobs accordingly. For example I know that I can TIG non-critical aluminum control panels on robots but I ask a better weldor to do the highly stressed structural welds.
Jim Wilkins
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From my experience: I was welding once or twice a week, took a course at a local trade school to get the basics. Have a large buzz box. Was able to do fairly well. Moved to Arizona, and now some 30 years later am trying to get to where I can at least stick things together. First thing I noticed is now I wear bi-focals, and had a cataract in my right eye. Could not see the puddle for anything. Bought a gold flashed filter and a magnifying lens, no help. But I could still weld with a small wire feed. No way with stick. Had the cataract fixed and am about to try again. Still have the giant WW II surplus 400 pound buzz box, just need some new rod and some scrap to practice on. About a month after the cataract surgery I added some 1"X1" tubing between the angle iron on the ramps from my car trailer to keep the tires from hanging up. Could see better but was having a heck of a time with the thick angle and thin tubing. Started with my mig, but it's a light duty rig and kept shutting down from overheating. So I finished it with rod. No way could I make it look good. By time I got the right settings and found some decent rod I was finished. So far it's held up, but it looks like it would if I never welded in my life. I've bumbled through some other repairs but I'm miles from where I was. If I can find the time to get some serious practice in I'll most likely pick it up again.
Al
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wrote:

I have the same problem with the old eyes - can't see without my bifocals. I talked to my doctor and he suggested buying a pair of cheap single focus glasses that are focused for the distance you weld at. It makes a world of difference. I CAN see now .... at least `2 inches from my nose :-) I also tried the magnifying lens in the helmet but the cheap glasses work better.
Bruce-in-Bangkok (correct Address is bpaige125atgmaildotcom)
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For welding now when I want to see it clearly, I put on my contacts, and then use 2.25 diopter cheap reading glasses with a big lens. I can't do diddly with bifocals, although an auto hood with bifocals helps immensely. You can hold your head steady and keep your focal point stationary.
Steve
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My astigmatism is so bad, I can't wear dime store glasses. Dime store, that's a good one:)
Al
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Ah, yes. I remember it well. It was fascinating grubbing through all that stuff.
DIME SLINGSHOTS!!!
Steve
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I wear progressive bifocals and had the same issues trying to weld. To see at the correct distance for welding, I had to look though the bottom of the glasses, but I couldn't position the hood to allow me to do that. I bought some single focus safety glasses and they worked well for welding, but didn't work out in general because everything beyond a few feet was so distorted I couldn't walk around safely with the glasses on.
The magnifying lens in the hood is what worked out best for me. It's the correct strength to convert my distance prescription to my reading prescription. So I wear my normal bifocals for welding, but the magnifying lens in the hood just allows me to look straight out the glasses (using the distance prescription in the glasses) and end up with a result which is the same as my reading superscription.
So what the magnifying lens does for me is allow me to use my bifocals (which also adjust for a astigmatism), but lets me look straight out to see close up instead of having to look out the bottom of the glasses. And for all other work without the helmet, I'm just using my normal bifocals.
Being able to see what you are doing is everything with welding. If you can't find a solution that lets you see the weld clearly, you won't be able to produce a good weld. The few people I've met in class that were having problems learning to weld, were always the people who had eyesight problems and hadn't found a solution with their glasses that would allow them to see the weld. When they finally found a helmet and glasses or whatever was needed that would let them see the weld pool, their welding instantly improved.
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Well, I'm kinda in that position because I've taken 3 stick welding classes, but yet, the odds of me actually using that skill much in the next 10 years is probably minimial. So I might end up losing much of the skill I learned.
However, what I'm sure of, is that if I try to do any stick welding in the future, no matter how much skill I might have lost, I will be able to pick up the skill again faster, and any welding I do will be better, than if I had not taken the classes.
So though I'm sure I will get rusty if I don't continue to practice, I'm also sure I won't loose everything I learned and that it will benefit me with any welding I do in the future.
The classes I took were really just enough to get a start on the process. To really develop the skill, I think you need to get a job and weld full time for a few years. It's not something you can really master in a few classes, but they will give you a good understanding of what there is to master and enough skill to allow you to try just about anything with some level of confidence that you understand what you are dealing with.
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[I want to first thank other posters also, I definitely appreciated the opinions and am feeling a little better about the risk of wasting time learning and forgetting the more arcane stuff]

Do you not weld at all, or just little?
Myself, I find that I do weld approximately once every 2 weeks.

I think so too, but some things are better learned with an instructor first, so I think that classes are of benefit.
So, say, what did they teach in your stick welding classes?
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I work with computers for a living so I have no use for welding in my work (unless my life takes a turn and I end up somewhere I can do some more welding). It's only hobby stuff I could use it on. I only got my first welding machine a few months ago but now I down a MIG machine and the small A/C only tombstone stick welder. The only stick welding I've done at home was one small rod just to make sure the new stick machine was working correctly (I bought it as an open box special at home depot and only got it because the price was too good to walk away from). At the moment, I've got no projects I need to use it for and any welding I do is more likely to be done with the MIG machine so it could be years before I actually use it.

Yeah, you seem to spend a lot of time buying and fixing big things so there's lots of opportunity to weld stuff. I've not gotten into any activities like that yet.

Lots of stuff. There's all the background classroom stuff about the processes and welders and electricity and different types of sticks and a bit of metallurgy and safety. But mostly, what there is to be gained is simply practice welding in all positions and joints and rods. Learning how to set the current, and how to prep a joint and how many passes to use and learning different weave patterns etc. Every joint configuration, material size, position, and rod type is a whole new learning process.
It's not like learning to ride one bicycle as much as it's like learning 100 different tricks on the bike. Each one has to be practiced and mastered. After three classes, I only become an OK welder for 10 of the 100 tricks. :)
The school also never got into fabrication issues like distortion and setup. (well we talked about it but never had any projects to deal with it). All the work in the school I want to was simply learning to run beads on test coupons in all positions and configurations.
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I went to a state school in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was working 7 days on, seven days off on an offshore platform. I'd weld on the job, then 7 days on shore. I did that for a year. In all that time, there was 1 % of class time. Book time. The instructor was a 300# ex Navy bubba who looked like he couldn't get down on the floor to do a critical weld. Then he would put on a hood, and it looked like Rembrandt strokes. Like the stuff you see in Lincoln Welding books.
His main thing was "just go out there and weld". I burned a ton of rod. And every once in a while when I got stuck or plateaued, he'd come in and take me to another level. He got guys all day that had to be there, sent from State Rehab. And then those who wanted to pick up a garage hobby skill. And then there were those of use who were in the trade. His time was spread thin.
Almost everything was learned by doing. And what he taught, he taught by example and exhibit. It was a buffet. Take what you want, and if you leave hungry, shame on you.
Learning about welding is easy. Being able to do it is different. Being teachable is a whole nuther category.
Steve
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    --If you're only welding every few weeks you need more projects! Get into art cars and you'll get more 'stick time', ha-ha..
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I tried some stick welding after a 3 year hiatus. Just like riding a bike... Go for it.
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Yes, it is like riding a bike to me. But, also, when I ride a bike after a while, it takes a while to get to that confidence level. Particularly when welding anything critical. Lots of time, even on regular stuff, I will take some test pieces of the same materials, and do a couple of sticks before doing the real weld, just to make sure I'm up to speed, and the machine is dialed in.
Steve
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Steve B wrote:

Stick welding is a mystery to me, I can't stick weld worth a damn, I can only TIG.
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The reverse is true for me. Tigging to me is a lot more difficult. I think that a good teacher can show you a lot in a short time, and get you going.
Steve
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